RE: [xmca] RE: mental health

From: Michael G. Levykh <mglevykh who-is-at>
Date: Sun Jul 13 2008 - 10:52:53 PDT

Achilles, Peter and All,

Although special ed. is not my cup of tea (or glass of vodka, for that
matter), I have spent some time reading both Vygotsky’s writings on
defectology and some current experts in the filed of autism and
schizophrenia, and have a small first-hand experience dealing with HF
autistics and schizophrenics. In my dilettante opinion, drugs given to some
patients tend to subside certain symptoms (e.g., hallucination, feeling of
depression, etc.). However, one of the most important mechanisms of cultural
development (according to my interpretation of Vygotsky) is holistic
integration of all mental functions within and with the cultural-historical
context. That is, the development of higher (cultural) emotions, for
example, is not really about the development of emotions per se, but rather
about integrating emotions into the entire psychological life. Putting it
differently, the success of cultural development depends on how well
emotions are related to, connected with, and tied to (and hence represent)
other psychological functions, systems, and eventually the whole person’s
experience (perezhivaniye). It seems that some type of drugs can allow some
patients to become merely more conforming to psycho- (or any other)
therapies. But it is, in my opinion, almost impossible to develop a “normal”
integration of all mental functions in, let’s say, a schizophrenic. Hence,
the impossibility to develop HMF. Then, what is left is trying to change the
environment – what all of you have already mentioned before. Of course, I
might be wrong – I am not an expert in the field.


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Achilles Delari Junior
Sent: Sunday, July 13, 2008 9:43 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] RE: mental health


I understand, but I ask you: it can allow space for higher mental funcitons
by stoping biochemical elementary process that colapses intire system of
psychic funtions, but it can't strictly generate meaninful/semantic process
constitute consciousness ideological organization, personality structure and
world view. Can it? Maybe the answer seems to be obvious... But, if I take
Lithium, Clorpromazina and Sertralina, my sleep and anxiety turns more
controlable, and my mood more euthimic, and so on, then it allow space
for any kind of productive imagination and thinking, that can actually
or not... but my entire thinking system of higher mental funtions seems to
organized by other semantic process too, socially, culturally generated -
Then I agree that we need a "a balance between attending to the
issues (autism, bipolar disorder, etc.) and attending to what's more
on the outside (other people's attitudes, the social arrangement of material

surroundings that channel thinking about difference--see, e.g.,
accommodations for
physically handicapped people)." Even so, my curiosity is too about the
possibility of generate social-cultural semiotic resources to promote
process that (re)organizes intire personality, consciousness,
sistems, in order to people's (maybe) better using of highter mental
that medications can allow space for. Five years of psychoanalisys was not
very productive to me, for instance, I wonder if could be any third way
mentalistic and naturalistic aproachs in psychoterapy as well as in general
psychology and in educational psychology researchs and social practices.
But, I'm just thinking by associations, I have to study very much - to read,

maintain atentional focus, motivation, an so on. Valsiner and Van der Veer's

claim, that Vygotsky in practice worked more in clinical setting, makes me
wonder: how he actually did this? Why we don't have much information about
this practice?
Thank you very much.
Umuarama, July 13, 2008.

> From:
> To:
> Subject: RE: [xmca] RE: mental health
> Date: Sun, 13 Jul 2008 09:43:35 -0400
> My sense is that medications can allow space for higher mental functions,
> which might otherwise be choked off by panic attacks and other responses.
> Peter Smagorinsky
> The University of Georgia
> 125 Aderhold Hall
> Athens, GA 30602
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Achilles Delari Junior
> Sent: Saturday, July 12, 2008 8:05 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: RE: [xmca] RE: mental health
> Peter, thank you, very much.
> I strongly agree with your position, not only agree but
> I'm learning a lot with you. I wonder that medication can not
> directlly affect highter mental funtions, not in semantic/
> ideologic organization of conciousness. I agree with
> Volochinov/Bakhtin's postition (in his wor "Freudism")
> that human conflicts are ideological/not strictly biological
> in its constitution...
> Maybe I was remarking the need to socially overcome "sad
> passions", more than the really essential need to socially
> enpower "glad passions"... (in spnozian terms). There is
> no the first process without the second one. I know.
> I only don´t know how yet. Not exactly. I belive that
> many people alread have this know-how. I wish to learn...
> I can try. Now I have important references here, then
> I must organize myself. =)
> Thank you.
> Oh. Please. I couldn't access the file... When I try, apears
> this message:
> You don't have permission to access
> /hold5yr/cook_leslie_s_200408_phd/cook_leslie_s_200408_phd.pdf on this
> server
> What can I do?
> Best, Achilles
> Umuarama, July, 12 2008.
> > From:> To:> Subject: RE: [xmca] RE:
> mental health> Date: Sat, 12 Jul 2008 09:12:53 -0400> > Achilles, again I
> speak largely from experience here. I think that there's a> balance
> attending to the neuroatypical issues (autism, bipolar> disorder, etc.)
> attending to what's more strictly on the outside (other> people's
> the social arrangement of material surroundings that> channel thinking
> difference--see, e.g., accommodations for physically> handicapped people).
> > What we argue in the book excerpt, and what Leslie argues, is that it's>
> vitally important to create mediational contexts that both contribute to
> new> settings (when there are wheelchair ramps, being wheelchair-bound
> appears to> all to be less of a handicap) and new ways for people to think
> about> themselves; or as some research suggests (see Damasio in our review
> below),> new ways for the brain to encode perceptions.> > This is not to
> that some conditions do not require additional attention.> I take a
> medication for anxiety, and many people I know take antipsychotics,>
> depression medications, and so on. Undoubtedly there's some
> overprescription> of such meds, but many of us are glad to have the
> > One thing seems certain: We need more research in this area, so I
> strongly> encourage you to extend your investigation! Best,Peter> > > >
> -----Original Message-----> From:
> [] On> Behalf Of Achilles Delari Junior>
> Sent: Friday, July 11, 2008 7:36 PM> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity>
> Subject: RE: [xmca] RE: mental health> > > Thank you, very much Peter...>
> "Cook (2004) argues that relying simply on medication and counseling > is
> inadequate; that a broader environmental change that enables an >
> understanding and tolerance of difference, and gives young people > tools
> for managing their difference, is essential to helping young people >
> construct positive lives for themselves and in turn contribute to a more >
> humane society."> > It's a beautiful and deep contribution. I really agree
> with this> orientation. > But, let me ask you: don’t you think that could
> exist a subtle distinction > between (a) “tolerance of difference related
> inclusive education” and > (b) “(self)tolerance of mental pain”? I think
> about my own experience: > there are several moments in which I don't only
> accept my different > (dysfunctional) process, but desire overcome/master
> it... There are four > hyperbolic semiotic process that I recognize (and
> struggle with) in BAD > (bipolar affective disorder):
> {paranoia<->megalomania} (mania) X > (depression) {self-moralist<->suicide
> ideation}. And I know that if social > others learn to comprehend and
> these different semiotic ways of> means world and my own experience,
> changing "social situation" by> inter-mental mediation, my own personal
> sense for this process can be > transformed. But, even so, a paranoid
> delirium not always can be only > accepted. If we could understand
> cultural-historical genetical roots of > mental pain, can we do something
> not only accept it, but even > overcome/replace its dysfunctional
> social/personal consequences?> Here, ariseesthe problem of
> again, an approach that > not only explains psychic process as function of
> social relations, but> socially > (and deliberately) constructs it too… >
> Personally talking, seems to be not too easy to me to engage myself> in
> social relations that could actually produce important functional > (and
> structural-dynamical) changes in my life - even more, since I > haven’t
> control about multiple social and biological determinations.> Things seems
> turns better or worse more in a casual than a determinist > way. But, by
> epistemological principles and with an emotional need to hope,> I know
> social formation of mind is open to co-construction/>
> inter-constitution/co-existence (sobytie)… Along the years, Vygotsky’s>
> claims > (to create new psychology and new means to make people’s life
> better) > make me take this problem of psychology applied to mental health
> as a kind> of personal and professional challenge to my own mental
> (cognitive/> affective) > resources… (but sorry about my "ecogentric
> language" here, righ now, i will> control me better in future)> > Oh,
> One more operational question. Let me ask: is this “dissertation > of
> Cook” (“who looked at young women with depressive disorders > and the
> mediational means they use to make sense of their lives”) > available in
> digital midia?> > Thank you very much, for this opportunity of
> inter-constitution. I must > organize my reading tasks now, there are very
> important contributions of all> > you here.> > Achilles> Umuarama, July,
> 2008.> > From:> To:> Subject: RE: [xmca]
> RE:> mental health> Date: Fri, 11 Jul 2008 15:24:52 -0400> > Achilles
> > Can> we really creat semiotical means to produce better mental health to
> people?> Or this kind of a goal is a mistake like possible Vygotsky´s or
> perhaps some> Vygotsky's followers' mistakes about 'social engeneering'?>
> I would say> YES to the first question. I'll take a shortcut and paste
> something in below> from a book I've coauthored about The Discourse of
> Character Education> (Erlbaum, 2005, with Joel Taxel). It draws on the
> dissertation of Leslie> Cook, who looked at young women with depressive
> disorders and the> mediational means they use to make sense of their
> My apologies for> the length of the following excerpt.> > > Mental Health
> and Character> Education> We have briefly expressed our concern that the
> issue of mental> health is virtually absent from discussions about
> education. Yet> many students who come to school with a mental health
> problems are treated> as discipline problems of the sort measured as
> of low character in> the proposals we have studied. We believe that it is
> important for any> character education initiative to recognize and account
> for mental health in> its conception of good character, both for those
> nonnormative makeups> and those with whom they interact.> Mental health is
> the elephant in the> character education closet. The World Health
> Organization (2001) reports> that about 7.5 million children in the U.
> S.—12% of all children under> 18—have mental disorders, nearly half of
> lead to serious disability.> Jamison (1997) found that 20% of high school
> students had seriously> considered committing suicide during the year
> to his study, with most> having drawn up a suicide plan; suicide is the #3
> cause of death of> teenagers between 15 and 19 years of age, often
> from a depressive> disorder. Yet most parents and teachers feel that
> health issues are> poorly addressed in schools (Dowling & Pound, 1994;
> Rappaport & Carolla,> 1999), many teachers have little understanding of
> to recognize or> respond to students with mental health problems (Madison,
> 1996), and only> recently has mental health been identified as a reason to
> develop an> Individual Education Plan (IEP) for students.> These
> misunderstandings have resulted in many such students being regarded as>
> troublesome or lacking character in schools. Yet, as reporter Anne Imse>
> (1999) wrote following the Columbine school shooting tragedy, > Even
> as dangerously troubled as Eric Harris stand a good chance of slipping>
> through the cracks in Jefferson County and across Colorado, failing to
> badly needed mental health care. There are serious roadblocks to getting>
> treatment for sick kids [including]> • State prohibitions against law>
> enforcement agencies telling schools about a problem kid unless there's a>
> conviction; > • Schools worrying about being saddled with psychiatric
> if they recommend treatment, or even being sued; > • Not enough money>
> earmarked for counselors and counseling for the state's youth. > So, even>
> though Jefferson County school officials have become more sensitive to
> kids'> mental states . . . they remain hamstrung about arranging
> "We> have no place to go with them," said Clark Bencomo, a counselor at
> Green> Mountain High School. "All we can do is suspend or expel." "We are>
> oftentimes reduced to putting a kid in a place where they're safe, but
> not the right program," added Kay Cessna, intervention services director
> for> Jefferson County schools. "There are not enough places." [One parent
> a> child with disabilities complained], "They don't have the time, the>
> manpower, and they don't get it.">
> ( > Cook
> (2004)> finds this problem occurring in other states as well, reporting
> that> students with mental health problems are often put in special
> education> programs or disciplined when they act out, either as a
> consequence of their> makeup (e.g., a child with Tourette’s syndrome’s
> involuntary profanity) or> in response to the taunting they face from
> peers.> Yet a mental health> professional would surely argue that the
> problem is not a lack of character> and the solution is not to punish
> students with mental health problems.> Rather, a broader understanding of
> mental health among students and> faculty—the sort of attention to climate
> we found in the states from the> Upper Midwest—would contribute to a more
> sympathetic and less punitive> environment for such students in school.
> Indeed, Damasio (1994) argues in> his somatic-marker theory against the
> classic Cartesian mind/body binary,> instead positing that brain and body
> are integrally related not just to one> another but to the environment. A
> change in the environment, he finds, may> contribute to changes in how a
> person processes new information (cf. Luria,> 1979; Pert, 1997); that is,
> response to developments in the surroundings,> the brain will encode
> perceptions in new kinds of ways. > Conceivably, then,> changes in school
> climate can contribute to the emotional well-being of> students whose
> makeup falls outside the normal range. The therapy for> such students is
> still widely debated. While medication and counseling have> benefited many
> with nonnormative makeups in their relationships with others,> the medical
> model has been criticized because it assumes that a normative> mental
> is best for all. This criticism frequently comes up in debates> about
> whether medications for Attention Deficit Disorder are prescribed too>
> for any students who have difficulty focusing in school. Some argue> that
> prescribing such medications is designed more to increase the comfort>
> levels of those around such students than to help those students>
> themselves.> The jury is still out concerning the question of whether
> people> with such diagnoses are sick and in need of medicine. Cook (2004)
> argues> that relying simply on medication and counseling is inadequate;
> a> broader environmental change that enables an understanding and
> of> difference, and gives young people tools for managing their
> is> essential to helping young people construct positive lives for
> themselves> and in turn contribute to a more humane society. Taking a
> punitive approach> to difference, she argues, is regressive and only makes
> life more fragile> for those characterized as different and more
> and cognitively> unhealthy for those who surround them.> >>
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Received on Sun Jul 13 10:53 PDT 2008

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